North Korea -- Latest Developments

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Gonk, Nov 23, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I don't have the time for an in-depth post here. But suffice it to say the front-page news item today was the North Koreans shelling a bordering Island in South Korea, killing two South Korean Marines.

    This comes on the heels of the sinking of a South Korean ship earlier this year that killed 68 or so sailors, which the North Koreans simply deny was on account of one of thier submarines.

    There has been no indication as yet that US policy will change towards North Korea in it's decision to not re-start the six party talks due to NK's ongoing nuclear tests. China has been trying to pressure the US to re-join the talks.

    Thoughts on this situation?

    PS: My own stance on this has been similar throughout. I consider North Korea to be the gravest threat on the world stage for the past 25 years, and that threat only continues to grow.

    I am in favor of averting war, but at some point we have to consider whether this is possible: remember that North Korea is taking the provocative measures here that is not really a reaction to anything the US or South Korea are well within thier rights of doing. Saddam, for instance, only fired on planes in reaction to the No-Fly Zones that were set up. There is no evidence here that the US or South Korea have engaged in any behavior that has been counter to the expectations set up in 1953.
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I am a big fan of your posts, the way you analyze problems, your ethics, you name it, I enjoy almost every single post you've ever written here, this one included, but I believe you overstate the threat posed by North Korea. I would put them far behind a nuclear Pakistan and a nuclear Iran on the axis of evil, whatever that is.

    I'd agree that the news about North Korea's uranium enrichment facility was unwelcome and that no one wants the worst-case scenario of the North Koreans developing a fission-fusion bomb.

    North Korea is a nation on the ropes on the one hand. Mired in Haitian-style poverty for much of the population, yet still fielding a large army. Their international political capital is based almost exclusively on giving the impression that they are capable of anything. They do it well, yet despite that, or because of it, they have been very savvy at ensuring the survival of the regime.

    It irks everyone I'm sure that their small nuclear arsenal makes them strategically impregnable. But that's the nature of nukes. They are a rogue state only in the sense that the regime does whatever it takes to survive. I'd suggest recent events, Hecker's tour of the uranium enrichment facility, the shelling, are signs of a North Korea in a very tight economic corner, more so than usual. We've all seen this game played out before. You and I have lived long enough to see the Clinton version and the Bush version and now the Obama version. The main change since the Clinton years is the dramatic shift in China's economic wealth and geopolitical influence, plus of course the nukes. It makes the situation more delicate, but also limits everyone's options.

  3. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    My thoughts are that this is all about North Korea's secretive internal politics. There is a succession underway from Kim Jong-Il to Kim Jong-Un, amidst constant rumors about Kim Jong-Il's declining health and reports of famine. Whenever the government appears shaky or vulnerable, it acts rashly on the world stage to either unify all of the actors in the regime behind a common cause (North Korean "glory" and independence from the "imperial West and Japan" in this case), or to demonstrate to others that Kim Jong-Il is still strong and in control.

    I disagree that North Korea is threat in the traditional military sense. Their army may be huge, but it uses outdated weapons and for all we know is underfed. They also haven't been actively involved in any major confrontation since the 50s, which means two generations of soldiers have never even fought before. It could probably wreak some havoc, but I have three bigger fears about North Korea, and they arise from developments since 9/11.

    One, that they outsource their know-how to unsavory characters who are trying to carry a nuke into an American, European or Japanese city and blow it up. We know they have been sharing their technology, its only a matter of time before the unthinkable happens. Or, by continuing to get away with pushing the envelope, they encourage Iran to continue down its confrontational path. Finally, where is the oversight on their nukes going to be when the regime collapses? (And then is a when, not an if). Will the Chinese step in and take them? Will it be an international effort? Will rogue actors in North Korea's military get control over them? That is a huge can of worms.

    Given the delicate geopolitical situation in Northeast Asia, I'm not exactly sure what we can do militarily. China does not want a U.S. presence any further up the Korean peninsula than it already is, nor does it want hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees spilling over the border into Jilin and Liaoning. South Korea and Japan will fear retaliation on their own cities.

    I don't want to slap sanctions on North Korea if that is only going to make the hungry hungrier.
  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    goodfellas, I think that's exactly right. The real external danger from North Korea comes when and if the regime fails and the country dissolves into civil war or falls to a putsch. The perception of relentless external hostility is a key ingredient for holding the North Korean regime together. The shelling is exactly the kind of thing that helps keep that external threat stirred up.
  5. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I'll post more analysis later, but for now, I'll just repost the news that the South Korean leader is vowing "enormous retaliation", "action, no more talking", and "making North Korea incapable to ever launch another military strike ever again."




    I have a bad feeling about this.







    EDIT: Maybe there was more to Obama's recent trip to India, Japan, the military base in South Korea, Indonesia, and skipping over China, than we originally thought?

    I'm hearing now that intelligence agencies have picked up on increased chatter between Iran and North Korea in recent months, and China has been gradually mobilizing its troops to the coast with Taiwan. This could also be why peace talks between Israel and Palestine have stepped up in recent months, to prevent Iran using Palestinians as a proxy against Israel (as they did with Lebanon in 2006), as well as why we're making a big push to appeal to Russia with the New START Treaty and yesterday's invitation from NATO to Russia to partake in the missile shield.
  6. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Video of the shelling

    Thanks, Jabba. Having said all that, video of this shelling shows how serious this latest attack is. It is well beyond the pale of anything we have seen before, and images of the shelling are likely being broadcast repeatedly all around South Korea. This is going to anger a lot of people, and President Lee is going to face serious pressure to stand up for his country. His recent rhetoric is troubling:

    Source:CNN

    So I suppose there is a fourth dimension to the type of threat we face from North Korea: That somebody in the region snaps, goes unilateral and drags everybody on to the roller coaster. It is understandable, though I believe it to be the wrong move.

    Edit Thanks for posting that, Ghost!
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That's the danger I guess, that in its desperation, North Korea miscalculates, and if the White House can't restrain the South Korean response. Of course, my response would be to threaten unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the peninsula if South Korea won't take this calmly.
  8. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    Unfortunately this is the latest in a long list of North Korean aggression which they usually use to get something during talks such as economic benefits and the like. The problem is, coming on the heels of the thier sinking of the South Korean Destroyer, and now the announcement this does not bode well.

    I agree that as far as the world threat goes, NK is probably 3rd on the list. Conventionally speaking though they could very well cause alot of death and destruction. As was already pointed out, they are already a country very much on the ropes. If the armistice is tossed out the window (not that it hasn't been) and this turns back into a real shooting war then China is very much the key. If it were not for Chinas intervention during the Korean War the map would look different there today. If China can be constrained if this gets hot and heavy it will be less ugly, but its going to be ugly either way and quickly. With the amount of assets we have in South Korea and Japan we could bring alot to bare rather quickly
  9. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I'm hearing now that intelligence agencies have picked up on increased chatter between Iran and North Korea in recent months, and China has been gradually mobilizing its troops to the coast with Taiwan.

    Are you thinking that China might be trying to use the North Korean situation to angle itself into a position where it can gain direct authority over Taiwan, be it arranged militarily or diplomatically?

    The position of Iran in all of this doesn't concern me very much. Iran doesn't have the pull that North Korea does. Russia kinda supports Iran, but when push comes to shove, Russia isn't going to really help them, and neither will China. Iran is a regional power, and thier capacity remains regional.

    China and Russia's positions on this are much more important. They may be percieving weakness in the West and will use this to extract something in return for thier support or non-interference. The Russians will probably want something we can reasonably give; although associating with the Russians as they grow increasingly authoritative is somewhat uncomfortable. Time might smooth that over as decades pass, however.

    China though, might request nothing short of effective control over Taiwan. That's something the West isn't going to want to give up, even if the powers that be in Washington, London, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin might secretly wish the Communists had taken over Taiwan in the 1950 revolution so that there'd be nothing so obvious for them to desire.
  10. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    I don't understand your reasoning, Gonk. China is using North Korea as a bargaining chip to get Taiwan? So China is going to cut North Korea loose if the West keeps supporting Taiwan, or China is going to take over North Korea if the West keeps supporting Taiwan? Or China is never going to put its foot down at all if the West keeps supporting Taiwan?

    China stands to lose in all of those situations. North Korean collapse is just as big a problem for China as it is for the United States, if not a bigger problem because all of the refugees that would spill into China. From the Chinese perspective, if you cut off the lifeline to the Kim regime, you create a massive humanitarian and security crisis on your border, and destabilize the region with the prospect of a power vacuum and loose nukes. If you try to take over North Korea, you further underestimate your "peaceful rise", and create a destabilizing border with U.S. forces along the South Korean side of the DMZ. If you fail to put your foot down at all, you encourage the same kind of behavior that is enfuriating regional actors and undermining regional stability in the first place. You also look like an irresponsible stakeholder in the international community. Lose, lose, lose.
  11. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I don't understand your reasoning, Gonk. China is using North Korea as a bargaining chip to get Taiwan? So China is going to cut North Korea loose if the West keeps supporting Taiwan, or China is going to take over North Korea if the West keeps supporting Taiwan? Or China is never going to put its foot down at all if the West keeps supporting Taiwan?

    No, more that if the West STOPS supporting Taiwan, China will stand aside and/or apply pressure to NK such that the end result would be regime change.

    That is the sentiment being: give us Taiwan, and we'll work with you to bring the problems with NK to a proper conclusion. If we ourselves cannot affect change in NK and it turns us away as well we will stand aside without objection and perhaps even support you in your endeavor.

    But if you the West continue to support Taiwan, we offer none of these things. That's what I'm thinking.


    China stands to lose in all of those situations. North Korean collapse is just as big a problem for China as it is for the United States, if not a bigger problem because all of the refugees that would spill into China. From the Chinese perspective, if you cut off the lifeline to the Kim regime, you create a massive humanitarian and security crisis on your border, and destabilize the region with the prospect of a power vacuum and loose nukes. If you try to take over North Korea, you further underestimate your "peaceful rise", and create a destabilizing border with U.S. forces along the South Korean side of the DMZ. If you fail to put your foot down at all, you encourage the same kind of behavior that is enfuriating regional actors and undermining regional stability in the first place. You also look like an irresponsible stakeholder in the international community. Lose, lose, lose.

    I think I just sort of doubt that China cares overmuch about some of these things. And I don't mean that as completely a condemnation of China becuase I'd be doubtful that a lot of nations, when push came to shove, would care about some of these things. A humanitarian crisis? Yes. But looking like an irresponsible stakeholder? I think if Taiwan were at stake, they might be able to live with that.

    China has been increasingly assertive itself lately, as can be seen in its reaction to the fishing trolley by the Japanese not so long ago, insisting the release of the person in question and an apology from Japan despite the fact that it seemed sort of clear the fisherman wasn't necessarily in the right place when he was picked up. I highly doubt China is looking for a war, but I also think it would be a mistake to say that they are committed solely to a "peaceful rise" any more than any power in thier position. They are gaining power and like anyone on the gain... America included... they are finding more and more of a desire to use that power.

    If they think they can angle this into leverage over Taiwan, from thier POV, why not do so? North Korea is offering them an advantageous diplomatic position: this is something that the US, South Korea and Japan need fixing, and the Chinese are able to play the spoiler or the fixer -- apparently moreso than even the Russians who at this point are shrugging thier shoulders over the situation about as much as we are. Yes, they have something to lose here, but they arguably have a considerable amount to gain as well.
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    There has to be a way out of the Korean peninsula for the U.S. If creating some kind of Hong Kong style solution for Taiwan - "One country, three systems instead of two" is the only way out, so be it, if that kind of linkage is really possible.

    Whatever the price, I do believe an official peace treaty would do more to bring down the Kim dynasty than more than a half century of U.S. military presence. And we've come to the time in our life cycle as a nation that our presence is no longer sustainable.
  13. GreyJedi23 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 16, 2010
    star 1
    This whole situation worries me. I'm afraid of how south korea will react to this in the future. The incidents between the countries are getting a lot bolder
  14. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Not as audacious as the Yangon bombing back in 83. This kind of stuff has been going on for far longer than I've been alive. No one knows whether the Kim dynasty can successfully transition to the next generation or whether if it didn't it would be replaced with something even worse. But this perpetual state of pseudo war is mostly all that holds North Korea together.
  15. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    If the US presence is not sustainable, so much more that it serves China's interests for the US to keep it there and thus weaken its rival. It is in China's interests -- just speaking strictly as a rival and not from a position of antagonism -- to keep the US spending money it can't afford and increase its local influence.

    I think the powers of Beijing realize by now what's up with the Korean situation. The days of Mao and strict adherence to Communist alliances are long, long gone. China no longer seriously contemplates a US invasion. So if complete resolution of the Korean issue really did serve Chinese interests more than the US, it would have moved to do so by now.

    More likely, I think China understands that it really does not need a buffer state with South Korea in today's world and for the forseeable future. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they are planning and/or are resigned to a united and Democratic Korea that takes after Soeul more than it does Pyongyang. While the Chinese would very much greatly desire a client state of a united Korea, it's very much clear now that a united Korea under NK design would be more trouble than just making all of Korea the 51st state at this point. The way they're acting, they'd get less fuss over just a direct territorial border with the US by now.

    But that doesn't mean that if they're willing to accept this future that they're not going to expect something substantial in return that directly benefits them in return for doing its part in allowing it to happen. And of course doing what they can to see that they get thier diplomatic hooks into whatever state solution might result from resolving the North Korean problem. It's in thier interests for the US to succeed in its efforts with NK -- and at this point for the US to success in what might be the ultimate goal of removing NK altogether and uniting Democratically with the South -- but it's also in Chinese interests to sit where they are and make the US and its Allies work as hard as they can for every victory.

    Might a humaitrian crisis result? Yes... but China and "humanitarian crisis" aren't two terms that have worked very well in the past. I think they're more worried about loose Nukes than if a lot of North Koreans might die, namely becuase... they're not Chinese. They've had a bad enough rap, even in recent past, to thier own people and thier demands for human rights. I'm not so sure they're unwilling to see many NKs die if their position might be strengthened. This might seem cold, but I would also venture a lot of states in the end would act the same way.

    What I do not think is realistic is for the Chinese to re-inhereit thier position in the Korean War. If it comes to War, the Chinese might not side with the US, but they're definately not going to go to bat for the North Koreans. And the Russians have apparently indicated that they're not about to do so either in thier current response to the crisis. Jong Il seems to have lost the ear of Moscow... not that he cares, if his behavior is any indication.

    Looking at what's going on though, I can't seriosuly think why anyone would consider NK to be less a threat than Iran. Pakistan to a large degree I can understand. But what NK did today is something the Iranians themselves have never done. At best they have proxies that are sort of but not completely working on Iranian behalf. And they can only get them targeted at Israel. Iran is not interested in conflict with any bordering nation and I seriously doubt they are going to prvoke any sort of conflict like this, if for no other reason becuase they don't have to. I would seriously doubt the Iranian regime is going to make anything more than an arrangement of convenience with North Korea, and they're significantly more interested in finding sympathy in Russia or Venezuela. If NK can offer them some cheap nuclear deals ok: but Iran should understand that whatever the likelihood of a major world power backing NK, world powers are even less likely to back Iran, for the same reason none backed Iraq: it's just not
  16. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I hadn't thought of that, but it does seem possible, China has been a lot more assertive lately and this could play right into their hands, by forcing America to choose between Taiwan and Korea.

    As for the increasing Iran/NKorea chatter over the last 4 months, I was thinking more of North Korea wanting Iran to start a proxy war with Israel (through Lebanon or the Palestinians) at the same time they escalate things with South Korea, hoping that divided attention would prevent the UN and major powers from cracking down on either one of them. Which could explain why the United States has dramatically stepped up its efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace in the last four months, as well as Israeli intelligence launching that crippling cyber-attack against Iran's nuclear progam.

    You're right that North Korea and Pakistan are probably the greatest threats to world peace and stability. I'd place North Korea at #1, even though Pakistan has more nukes and the means to deliver them, just because North Korea is much more unstable (their transition between dictators starting up again) and much more likely to miscalculate. Which they very well may have just done. Pakistan at least has a stable relationship with India at this moment, and their political system has recovered stability too.

    As for Taiwan, the sooner that issue is settled (probably under the Hong Kong model, with the U.S. negotiating), the better off the world will be.

    Also, on North Korea, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the boiling point. Yes, incidents like this have happened over the decades, but there's only so much the South Koreans can take. It does all add up. I wouldn't blame them for resuming full-scale war with North Korea, and I hope the United States would support them. This needs to end, before another dictator settles in for another 60 years.
  17. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I hadn't thought of that, but it does seem possible, China has been a lot more assertive lately and this could play right into their hands, by forcing America to choose between Taiwan and Korea.

    I think they're the clear winners of the diplomatic status quo, yes. But they want to avert a war. If it comes to actual War, they lose their leverage. I'd be interested to know the effect the current Russian stance is having in Beijing: Russia has generally been on their side of this in the recent past.


    As for the increasing Iran/NKorea chatter over the last 4 months, I was thinking more of North Korea wanting Iran to start a proxy war with Israel (through Lebanon or the Palestinians) at the same time they escalate things with South Korea, hoping that divided attention would prevent the UN and major powers from cracking down on either one of them. Which could explain why the United States has dramatically stepped up its efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peace in the last four months, as well as Israeli intelligence launching that crippling cyber-attack against Iran's nuclear progam.



    I can see the North Koreans trying to get something like that moving, and the Americans reacting to it to "cover their flank", so to speak, but the Iranians acting on that seems unlikely. They might run something really small, but time is on Iran's side: if they're looking for Nuclear Weapons, they don't need NK help to accomplish it. It might have been a different story back in the 80s when it didn't seem Iran had its own source of Uranium. But now that they do, they don't need anything that time won't buy them. The North Koreans maybe could give them better rockets, but the Iranians can't do anything with Rockets that will reach London but not Washington, and they already have missiles that can reach Israel. Plus, they get away with less than the NK government can on the world stage, who essentially have a blank cheque to act in whatever audacious manner they please since the back of the NK populace is absolutely broken.

    Remember that it's still the case in the Middle East that ticking off Israel too much is the same as telling them you have a brilliant new proposal on where their next housing development should be located.


    You're right that North Korea and Pakistan are probably the greatest threats to world peace and stability. I'd place North Korea at #1, even though Pakistan has more nukes and the means to deliver them, just because North Korea is much more unstable (their transition between dictators starting up again) and much more likely to miscalculate. Which they very well may have just done. Pakistan at least has a stable relationship with India at this moment, and their political system has recovered stability too.

    If there's anything that's kept the lid on Pakistan it is the continued ongoing assurance of two things: One, that Pakistan has practically NO friends and second, that in any given conflict with India, Pakistan will LOSE. Pakistan has to seriously contemplate a future where if they don't play their cards right, there is no Pakistan. Colin Powell threatened to bomb them into the stone age for a reason. The only things Pakistan can count on is the Muslim world making them the next Palestinians, which is to say, talk about how unjust they find the world treats Pakistan, and then do nothing about it. Beyond that Pakistan can look to the US... ha-ha... or China, who would only see Pakistan as a useful proxy to a rival, not a nation they're interested in really antagonizing a whole lot.

    Ultimately, I think NK does take the #1 spot for these reasons. But Pakistan is right up there. Everyone else is pretty far behind.


    As for Taiwan, the sooner that issue is settled (probably under the Hong Kong model, with the U.S. negotiating), the better off the world will be.


    It's sort of sad to admit that, but once the USSR went down the tubes the Taiwan situation really has become the most likely starting point of a third world war just by the interests of who is involved. Luckily the Chinese have realized tha
  18. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Sorry, I'm still a little lost about your point about Taiwan, and how China benefits from the status quo.

    Why would the U.S. "give up" Taiwan in exchange for China "giving up" North Korea, when the U.S. can just wait out the lifespan of the Kim regime? Then the U.S. gets what it wants without sacrificing its principles. China loses from the status quo, because time is the greatest threat to the Kim regime.

    The regime in North Korea is unlikely to last long into its third generation. Kim Il-Sung, the father of the regime who is practically deified by North Korean propaganda, personally selected Kim Jong-Il. It gave a special legitimacy to his successor which is absent in this next hand-off of power. I would say such an absence is significant when the country is possibly undergoing a famine, at least severe food shortages. The leadership had to apologize early this year for an economic blunder it made. Stuff like that robs the regime of legitimacy. How do you boost legitimacy? Blame someone else, make a distraction to unify people behind you. Hence attacks on South Korean patrol ships and now the shelling.

    Maybe the South Koreans are going to get fed up. I think you raise an excellent point that once your military attacks towns and kills civilians, like what happened today, you go beyond geopolitical brinksmanship and have crossed the line into acts of war with your country's name painted all over it. Who can blame the South Korean president for issuing stern statements and for considering war. But I'm hoping that cooler heads are going to prevail. As one of Asia's most successful economies, South Korea has a lot to lose from war breaking out on the peninsula.

    And sorry if I was unclear, Gonk, but I didn't mean to say I didn't find North Korea dangerous. I just don't think it is dangerous in the traditional military sense, like China or Russia have the potential to be. It is very dangerous because of its willingness to share its nuclear know-how. I don't find it useful to argue as to whether or not it is more dangerous than Pakistan or Iran, though. They are all dangerous in their own way.
  19. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Well, the situation just got either exceptionally worse, or exceptionally more stable, depending on what North Korea does next.

    US, Japanese, South Korean fleets put to sea

    Exact numbers are unknown, but several press reports (according to the article) suggest fifty or more vessels. That is a giant fleet and will either scare North Korea back into it's hole or cause them to lash out in their typically paranoid manner.

    Edit-I'd also like to point out that rendering the North militarily impotent does not necessarily mean a land invasion; the South Korean Air Force has more than enough strike capacity to do so between their 42 F-15E Strike Eagles and various other combat aircraft, and the DPRK'S Air Force is an obsolete joke. The wild card is NK's nuclear capacity, obviously.
  20. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Sorry, I'm still a little lost about your point about Taiwan, and how China benefits from the status quo.

    Well my question would be if China does not benefit from the status quo, why are they doing very little to resolve it? If war had taken place under the Clinton administration the humanitarian cost would have been awful -- but with the advent of nuclear weapons, it has only gotten several times worse as time has gone on.


    Why would the U.S. "give up" Taiwan in exchange for China "giving up" North Korea, when the U.S. can just wait out the lifespan of the Kim regime? Then the U.S. gets what it wants without sacrificing its principles. China loses from the status quo, because time is the greatest threat to the Kim regime.

    I would disagree with this assessment. Firstly becuase I'm not so certain waiting out the regime will have the desired effect, and that this is making a mistake similar to thinking the next war in terms of the last war -- or rather in this case thinking the collapse of the next Communist Regime (NK) in terms of the collapse of the last Communist Regime (USSR). Waiting out the lifespan of the regime does not mean the effects will be solely internal. Even as the regime gets supposedly weaker, its capacity for destruction grows larger.

    What's more, we might be surprised how long NK lasts. I am of the belief that sanctions work, but how they work to meet your goals depends on the context in which they are implemented. If you are fighting an active war with an enemy, sanctions and preventing trade could very well win the war for you. In peace, if the enemy is used to a particular level of "comfort" for itself or its citizens, effective sanctions could cause change within the nation.

    But if the nation in question is willing to live with what meagre resources it can manage and it can force the population to go along with it, sanctions effecting regime change could take a very, very long time.

    China may not particularly lose from the status quo because NK is not threatening China and it is putting them in a favorable position vis-a-vis South Korea, the US and smugly, Japan. It would overall lose if this were to break out into complete conflict, as everyone loses. But if they can bluff this and make it appear to the US that the loss of the NK regime or the usffering of its people will not trouble China greatly, there are advantages they could gain.



    The regime in North Korea is unlikely to last long into its third generation. Kim Il-Sung, the father of the regime who is practically deified by North Korean propaganda, personally selected Kim Jong-Il. It gave a special legitimacy to his successor which is absent in this next hand-off of power. I would say such an absence is significant when the country is possibly undergoing a famine, at least severe food shortages. The leadership had to apologize early this year for an economic blunder it made. Stuff like that robs the regime of legitimacy. How do you boost legitimacy? Blame someone else, make a distraction to unify people behind you. Hence attacks on South Korean patrol ships and now the shelling.

    I think you're overselling the degree of NK dissent and internal struggle. The article itself lays out how the apology was, yes, unprecedented -- but also how limited it was. And the fact that it was unprecidented might be just as much a sign of how far away political collapse is rather than how close: one apology does not an internal crisis make. I think a lot of the talk about how the generals are going to turn on the leadership or each other or that the populace will revolt is wishful thinking. Wishful on the one count becuase I'm not sure there's any major signs that this will happen, but also on the other count that even if it does happen, that's not to say the situation will improve one iota.

    And if things get bad enough for them, are we so certain NK will not just claim the South Koreans have attempted an invasion and invade themselves? Are we so sure that, faced with some sort of economic extinction, are we
  21. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    I would argue that China doesn't do anything about North Korea for two reasons.

    One, because China is afraid to. We all think of North Korea's nukes and see them intended for targets in South Korea, Japan and other places with American forces. But if North Korea thinks it is about to be sold out for Taiwan, whats to stop them from putting cross-hairs on Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao? If they are thinking about going out with a bang, which is how you are characterizing them to be, then what difference does it make to them where the bang is? Having nukes has deterred American intervention into North Korea, and it works the same way for the Chinese. Essentially, their hands are tied.

    Two, because China still wants North Korea as a buffer state. You have rejected this line of thought before, but I still support it. An entirely democratic, U.S.-allied Korean peninsula is going to force China to concentrate more on its northern provinces, which means not being able to focus its forces solely on the Taiwan straits. While I agree that China no longer fears a U.S. invasion, I refuse to believe that they'd rather have a border with a U.S.-allied South Korea than one with North Korea. No way.

    Ultimately, China just wants to keep the region stable, because that is better than doing anything to destabilize it. They are throwing their money on a losing bet, because in the long run they lose from the status quo. But hey, the leadership there likes to kick the can down the road and worry about it later. Where have we seen that before?

    My question to you, Gonk, is: If the government in North Korea is stable and doesn't need to rally people in support against an enemy, how else do you explain the Cheonan incident and the shelling? What is the motive?
  22. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    One, because China is afraid to. We all think of North Korea's nukes and see them intended for targets in South Korea, Japan and other places with American forces. But if North Korea thinks it is about to be sold out for Taiwan, whats to stop them from putting cross-hairs on Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao? If they are thinking about going out with a bang, which is how you are characterizing them to be, then what difference does it make to them where the bang is? Having nukes has deterred American intervention into North Korea, and it works the same way for the Chinese. Essentially, their hands are tied.

    I'm not so certain China is afraid of North Korea in that respect. Yes, in some fashion is significant to ask who is to stop them, but they're not about to let NK push them around in that respect. Neither would the US: the only reason NK was not invaded already prior to nuclear weapons and its military being more capable against the US's military than when MacArthur reduced it to shreds in his libreation of SK in 1950, was becuase of China itself, not for any nation's hesitation at military casualties in invading North Korea. Becuase China would have something to lose doesn't mean they'd let NK start making decisions on whether or not they could get Taiwan.

    Not to mention if NK went out with a bang, even if they were being sold out by the Chinese, they'd still focus primarily if not solely on South Korea and Japan -- and any American instillations they can find. In some respects, the Russians have already sold out North Korea in a similar fashion... but NK has said very little in terms of threatening Russia. And there is more Russian land in better range of current NK weaponry than there is American land.


    Two, because China still wants North Korea as a buffer state. You have rejected this line of thought before, but I still support it. An entirely democratic, U.S.-allied Korean peninsula is going to force China to concentrate more on its northern provinces, which means not being able to focus its forces solely on the Taiwan straits. While I agree that China no longer fears a U.S. invasion, I refuse to believe that they'd rather have a border with a U.S.-allied South Korea than one with North Korea. No way.


    I did not say precisely this. I said that China would sooner support a united Korea under SK rule than a United Korea under NK rule. And this is becuase with SK removed as a reason for the North to be contentious to the West, they become more self-sufficient as a regional power, and thus more problematic for China. While it is true that the presence of Japan would mean a united Communist Korea would still be antagonistic and still somewhat under Chinese influence, thier behavior would not be nearly as easy to control and could mean some major instability.

    They don't desire a united Korea under SK rule either... and as you say, thier preference is to keep a divided Korea going. I am merely saying that, if the unification of Korea were inevitable and it had to be on the terms of one of the two countries, it would prefer it to be on the terms of the South. And that's because EVEN if we were to go over and above the likely possibilities and just say that the US took over a united Korea as the 51st state, it would STILL not harm Chinese interests as much, in the long term, as a untied Korea under NK auspices, despuite thier common Communist backgrounds. Becuase China can be assured that in the event of any form of Democratically united Korea, that they will have sole ownership of those most likely to start any hostilities in the region. There will be no other power that is flaunting its military in the region besides the Chinese themselves. It is preferable for a power to be the sole power willing to potentially use force than to be one of two powers, even if that power is a close ally. Not that China is anywhere near close to using force as NK is.

    China wants a divided Korea to remain -- which is part of why I say they support the status quo. However the cost of them having to worry about thie
  23. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Yes, China wants to focus on the straits, but policing thier Korean border would not be as problematic as say, the Germans having to worry about Russia and France in 1914. They have more than the ample manpower and funds to do it, and little reason to be seriously concerned. The worst thing this means is that a bargaining chip for Taiwan is gone -- but you sort of assert that NK isn't being used as such a bargaining chip, if I read you correctly.

    I disagree. China is surrounded by contentious borders and the one with North Korea is the only one they don't really have to worry about. Replacing North Korea with a democratic, U.S.-allied South Korea adds a new trouble spot, even if an attack is never likely to take place. If the Americans are working other powers in the region to "contain" China, which is what people are speculating, then the border becomes significant. The Chinese would have to factor that in while divvying up their security forces, which are already patrolling places near India, out in Xianjing, out in Tibet, near the Taiwan Straits and so on. Of course they have the manpower, but why give yourself another headache if you don't have to?

    I'm not saying that North Korea can't be used as a bargaining chip by the Chinese. I just don't see the evidence that shows they are explicitly doing what they are doing for Taiwan, as opposed to for any other geopolitical goal of theirs. Taiwan is obviously the biggest, but there are others and if you're running only on speculation, then you'd have to sub in any other potential thing the Chinese want. It just seems random to select Taiwan in that sense, when you could also just as easily and plausibly explain their behavior as kicking the can, not wanting to replace a "stable" country with an unstable one, or keeping the buffer.

    I also disagree that a united Korea means the USA can no longer justify its presence on the peninsula. The Americans can say that integrating the two countries is such a monumental economic and security task, that they should stay to see it through. If the South Koreans want them there, tough luck for China. Germany has been reunited for decades now but American troops are still there.

    The motive? A few things:

    1. To extract economic and aid concessions from the US by threat of war.

    2. To get the US, SK and Japan to accept NK's nuclear programme without further objection by threat of war.

    3. Long, long term, to angle for the re-unification of the Koran peninsula though threat of war.

    Generally speaking, make it look likely that a war will take place, betting on the US's unwillingness to fight it as more things become at risk. Which was, generally speaking and at the risk of Godwin, the overall strategy of Adolf Hitler: make the other side blink first.


    Haha, lets leave Hitler out of this for now. ;) I'm not sure I agree with your first point. North Korea thought it would get economic concessions by attacking South Korea? It has so far miscalculated, because South Korea shut off the spigot. Would the Americans give economic aid to North Korea at a time like this? I will concede though that in the past North Korea has used acts of aggression to get economic support. But in this case, I believe it went too far. The second and third points I can understand. You should definitely include internal factors, though, especially where there is so much going on there.
  24. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    This is really starting to escalate. In a PM, I floated the idea of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. I have favored a cautious approach to the situation thus far, but recent developments have forced me to wonder if it is really wise to wait around and see what North Korea is going to do next.

    Would a pre-emptive attack on North Korea be justified at this point? I was thinking of an attack on their nuclear facilities, any missile launch sites, army headquarters and communications centers, roads and bridges leading to the DMZ and all airstrips. Basically attempt to destroy anything that would be used to retaliate on Seoul, and slow any progress the DPRK could make towards getting more troops out to the DMZ.

    But doing so would also raise more questions. Is North Korea going to throw in the towel after that, or at this point do you need to go all the way for regime change?

    Would an attack on their nuclear facilities destroy their nukes or just their ability to use them, or neither? If you jam/cyber-attack their military communications, how do you (or they) keep track of the nukes?

    I am not an armed forces expert at all, but I figured these are probably some of the questions people in defense would be asking.. right? I'd love to hear from some of the military experts here.
  25. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I'm no military expert in the least bit, but I'm pretty sure that if you're going to attack North-Korea, you bet they're going to roll out everything they've got. It's what they've been working up to for a couple of decades now, and they'd feel justified in doing so.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.